Discover the island of Sal, Cape Verde
At almost three hours south of the Canaries, lies an archipelago, composed of ten islands and considered by many to be the African version of the Caribbean. Colourful houses, transparent beaches and even sea turtles welcome any travellers who drop by here for a visit, exploring a paradise called Cape Verde, where the tourism industry is charging forward, and taking giant steps to establish this as a go to destination all year round.
The islands are not only an ideal destination for those who are looking for a well earned rest in Africa, but also for lovers of culture, nature and water sports, not to mention incredible weather.
Introducing the Island of Sal
Located 500 kilometres from the coast of Senegal and 1,600 from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Sal is the most famous of the islands in the archipelago of Cape Verde. Discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century, it has since emerged as one of the jewels in the crown of African island destinations.
Cape Verde was a Portuguese colony until 1975 and up until 1992 they shared the flag and anthem with Guinea, until they passed from communism to democracy. Its capital is Espargos, a small village in the north of the island, and the salt flats of Pedro Lume are one of its main tourist attractions, located in the crater of a volcano 3 metres below sea level.
Sal island is a very flat, baron and desert island. That is, apart from the highest point of Sal, which is a volcanic mountain towering 416 metres high.
Sal has numerous desert spots caressed by turquoise beaches where the motto "No Stress" defines the philosophy of people embraced by the sea, colours and musical rhythms. Its capital, Espargos, is located next to the airport of Amilcar Cabral and quaint fishing village of Pedra Lume, which were both once candidates for Unesco heritage.
In the far north, the famous Buracona Lagoon - or‘Blue Eye’ is a volcanic hole that makes a breathless connection with the sea. Santa Maria, its largest city and located to the south is a charming place, full of African culture and those laid back, no stress vibes.
Accommodation to Suit
Santa Maria is the tourist area of the island. The rest of the villages on the island can be visited during the day, but the best idea is to stay in Santa Maria or close by because it is where the tourist infrastructure, that is, most of the hotels, restaurants, nightlife and excursions operate from there. Santa Maria also has a fantastic beach, and gives you the real feeling of being on the African continent.
Here you have two options: hotels or apartments. There are group resorts like Riu or Meliá, including bed and breakfast to the All Inclusive option. All Inclusive is big in Cape Verde, which may be appealing to a lot of people, but I would recommend other options. In Santa Maria you have the option of an apartment, so basically a hotel with a more local feel.
Whether you are traveling as a couple or as a group / family, you'll feel more a part of the island, than if you stay in one of the clinical all inclusives. That said there are some exceptional deals for the island of Sal on an all inclusive basis (we travelled with Thomson), so I wouldn't blame you for choosing that option.
In Santa Maria there are two versions of Cape Verde that are both very different, but equally well blended: the local and the foreign. As for the first, the old part itself is a set of pastel coloured houses, where children play football barefoot, women walk with baskets of fruit on their heads and people dance the funaná as if there were no tomorrow.
There is an enchanting mix of African and Cuban culture, with a personality of its own and people who have learned to immerse themselves in the pleasures of the simple life, while painting pictures with sand, or carving turtles in stones by the ocean. A city in which, more than the monuments, its own lifestyle is the attraction. It all revolves around the beach of Santa Maria, which is the most beautiful attraction of the island.
Considered to be one of the best beaches in Cape Verde, the Santa Maria beach has fine white sand, transparent blue waters and a wooden pier, known as the Pontão de Santa Maria, from which people dive off, to embrace the blue paradise of the ocean. Picture the scene: In the background, you can see specks of colours, those of the boats in which a Cape Verdean takes a nap, while another partakes in the noble culture of fishing.
And on its shore, while a man walks with cubes full of fish, new colours add up: those of kite surfers, a sport that together with paddle surfing, windsurfing, surfing, diving and snorkelling, make this island a paradise for lovers of water sports. Of course, there are many other pleasures. Cape Verde and the island of Sal offers: eating, drinking. and dance to name just a few! Check out the Eco Dive School Cabo Verde to get started at diving.
Food to Wet your Appetite
It is fair to say that fish is the biggest foodie attraction on the island of Sal. In places like the creperie Sol Doce, local Mr. Carlos distributes cachupa trays for prices that barely exceed 8 euros. Do not miss this and other delicacies like stuffed crepes and fruit-based breakfasts or natural juices.
Not far from there (Santa Maria only covers more than four streets), the Chez Pastis fuses the island experience with a concept of a romantic dinner, lanterns and fish with delicious side dishes. At the Pousada Travessa, Sapo Com Gome unfolds its charm in a bohemian alley where they serve a rich grouper while a local band plays Cape Verdean jazz.
A favourite, however, is the Bar di Nos - an establishment located near the market where a local family makes chicken and fish skewers each night on their terrace. In this restaurant a combined plate of meat, salad, rice and potatoes costs only 5 euros, moving away completely from the style of the more expensive tourist restaurants. Pure local charm.
Nightlife & Entertainment
The night is approaching and you have a drink in the streets of Santa María. How about a typical fruit punch? Or a cocktail in the relaxing Chill Out, next to the Pontoon? Two favourite options are the One Love Reggae Bar, a rooftop bar on whose open-air rooftop, the locals dance to Bob Marley and the atmosphere is filled with beach aroma and good vibes. It is an ideal stop for a drink before indulging in some real dancing in the Calema, the flagship club of Santa Maria. A nightclub that merges vintage and African beats, here you can dance to music from Rihanna to Victor Tabares.
The island of Sal in Cape Verde is the perfect getaway, especially when thinking about escaping your home countries winter for warmer climates relatively close by. Bathe in the sunshine, take up a new water sport hobby and explore the African culture of this undeveloped island before it becomes too touristic and built up.